Zucchini Couscous Cakes
Technically speaking, spring officially started a few weeks ago. It didn’t really feel like it was here though until this last weekend filled with sunshine and blue skies. Even though Jason and I were stuck working, it seemed like everyone else was really enjoying the change in weather. We’ve spent the last few years supplying everyone else with their toys and our busiest days in the shop are often those 75 degree days where everyone wants to rent paddleboards, buy a trainer kite, or demo a longboard. It seems like the only time we get a breather is on those gray, drizzly days when the rest of the world is smart enough to stay home. Luckily for me, i’m more than happy holing up in my kitchen on those rainy days and braising a big chunk of meat til it falls of the bone.
But I digress. My whole point was that yes, spring is finally here. To me, that means making the transition to light, healthy cooking with all the fresh seasonal produce cropping up. These couscous cakes epitomize spring freshness. This recipe is a variation on the couscous cakes in Fine Cooking Mazagine issue No. 37. You can fill them with any type of veggie you love. I made these with whole wheat couscous so they were extra healthy (it’s actually all I had in my pantry to be honest) and filled them with zucchini, garbanzo beans and almonds. A simple salad played a supporting role while a roasted red pepper sauce brought the cakes to life.
The best part about these couscous cakes is that they’re not only a showstopper but you can fry them up and keep them warm in a warm oven while you put together the rest of your dinner.
Zucchini Couscous Cakes
1 cup of boiling water
3/4 cup of couscous
pinch of salt
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup of canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of chopped almonds
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1 cup of diced zucchini
1 small shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic minced
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and then add in the dried couscous and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and let it sit for 5 minutes so the couscous can absorb all the water. Once the water is absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork.
In the meantime, using a food processor or blender (if you have none of those then just chop it all up finely with a knife) pulse the 1 clove of garlic, basil and another pinch of salt until finely chopped. Then add in the chickpeas, lemon zest and almonds to the mixture and pulse again til diced up small and well combined. Beat the two egg yolks together and add the eggs and chickpea mixture to the couscous. Stir to combine.
In the meantime, add the zucchini, shallot, minced garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper along with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a saute pan on medium heat. Lightly saute until the zucchini and onions have softened and start to turn light brown. Once cooked, add to the couscous mixture and stir to incorporate.
Press the couscous into a lightly oiled 1/3 measuring cup. Then invert the measuring cup onto a plate and gently tap on it until the patty is released. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Heat a few tablespoons over medium heat in the saute pan. Add half of the couscous cakes to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until the first side is golden brown. Use a flat, wide spatula to flip the cakes over. (When you do this, use your opposide hand to gently brace the cakes. If some of them fall apart just squish them back together again.) Once the 2nd side is golden brown as well serve immediately or transfer to a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
3 roasted red bell peppers (can be found in a jar or in sometimes in the deli section at the grocery store)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
salt and pepper
In the food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper until the flavors really pop!
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